Damien Delaney’s own goal gets Arsenal up and running

Wenger’s side bounce back from opening weekend defeat with win at Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace’s Irish defender Damien Delaney  reacts after diverting a header by Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez into his own net at Selhurst Park. Photograph: Getty Images

Crystal Palace’s Irish defender Damien Delaney reacts after diverting a header by Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez into his own net at Selhurst Park. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2

Arsène Wenger will hope normal service has been resumed. Embarrassed by West Ham United on the opening weekend, his team vaulted an awkward hurdle here to kickstart their campaign proper. This was a gloriously open London derby against a Crystal Palace side whose attack-minded approach should thrill in the season ahead but it was also the kind of contest that was always likely to have Arsenal’s juices flowing. Allowed to play, the visitors rejoiced.

Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sánchez, restored after his exertions at the Copa America, all revelled here to go some way towards exorcising the nightmarish memories of the previous Sunday’s defeat. This was a start, a win to prompt relief in the visitors’ dugout at the final whistle. Both teams will take encouragement from their performance but for Arsenal all that really mattered were points.

If Wenger had craved the rhythm his side had whipped up back in the spring in the wake of that stutter at the Emirates then, in truth, Palace were accommodating hosts. With Mile Jedinak out of favour and no defensively minded midfielder selected in the starting lineup, the home side always felt alarmingly vulnerable, their backline permanently stretched with creative players taking too many risks in areas of the pitch where they might have been better advised to be more agricultural. They had retired at the interval grateful their opponents had eked out only one reward from a frantic occasion, and pinching themselves that they had responded to force parity so swiftly.

Much of the visitors’ approach play had been breathtaking, the speed at which they counter-attacked brutal to behold. The tone had been set early when Yohan Cabaye’s volley at a corner was blocked on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area, with Cazorla, Özil and Sánchez subsequently sprinting downfield against outnumbered opponents. Joel Ward dived in to block the Chilean’s first attempt, with James McArthur handily placed to clear the second attempt from the goalline.

The respite was brief. Alex McCarthy, on home debut following his £3.5m arrival from Queens Park Rangers, was forced to turn aside further attempts from Sánchez and Aaron Ramsey though, by then, Olivier Giroud had forced the visitors ahead. Ward was culpable on that occasion, a heavy first touch presenting possession back to Sánchez, who liberated Özil down the left. His cross was volleyed in acrobatically by the Frenchman, having made space against Damien Delaney, for a first Premier League goal in over 10 hours of game time.

Wenger must have imagined that would prove the prelude to a battering, though Palace boast bite of their own these days. In spurning a central holding player, Alan Pardew had urged Yannick Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha to purr, that trio fed by McArthur and Cabaye in midfield. Just before the half-hour Puncheon was permitted to drift infield from the left and float a pass beyond Nacho Monreal for Bolasie to chest down to Connor Wickham. The striker laid off for Ward, up-field and seeking to atone for his earlier error, to fizz a glorious low finish across Petr Cech and into the far corner.

Momentum might have been theirs had the referee, Lee Mason, considered the petty foul committed by Francis Coquelin in first half stoppage time worthy of a second booking within four minutes. Pardew, incensed that McArthur was immediately cautioned for a similar offence, voiced his disapproval as the teams left the pitch. Coquelin would be warned again for persisted fouling in the second half – he was duly withdrawn for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Mason having made clear another offence would prompt red, much to Pardew’s disgust – with the home manager having more reason to curse upon the restart as Wickham’s half-volley from Zaha’s centre crashed on to the near post with Cech beaten.

Arsenal breathed again and, soon afterwards, restored their advantage. Once more their forward line were permitted too much time to pick Palace apart, Héctor Bellerín eventually springing eagerly to the byline to centre for Sánchez. The Chilean sprung above Ward on the edge of the six-yard box to nod down towards the far post and Delaney, stretching desperately to intercept, diverted the ball into his own net. Cazorla was thwarted by McCarthy in the final minute and there were pangs of anxiety before the end, Cech denying Ward again at a corner, but the visitors’ greater class had told. They are back up and running.

(Guardian service)

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